23 October 2011

it was nearly all my fault

or "How I almost lost us the RWC".

Sometimes you get premonitions. Call them what you will, intuition, superstition, premonition... I've learnt that it pays to listen to them.

Well, I was invited up to Rome to watch (shhhh) THE game, in a pub, with Kiwis, Australians, Canadians, English, Italians and... French!

To go, or not to go? You see, it was a very hard call for me to make. I had this premonition that if I went to Roma, the AB's would (you know, that unmentionable word). If I stayed home, the NZ economy would be OK a bit longer.

But the call of Rome, of company, of Kiwi accents, of meeting up again with good people and new good people... heck it's only a game, isn't it?

Anyway, premonition became superstition. By the time the train arrived at Termini I was convinced that the Jonaress was on it. In fact, I had even packed into my bag three NZ caps to give to the victors after the game. (I'm a generous soul, really).

It was a heavy weight on my shoulders as I, dressed all in sombre black, went off to put that gloom on the NZ psyche.

At the door of the wonderful "Scholars' Lounge" the burly bouncer looked at me and said "France". Impudent sod, I thought, and shook my head. "All BLacks", I said, sweeping a scornful hand down my black coat. He frowned.

Inside the pub I could see people giving me odd looks. OK, so I am a country bumpkin in Rome, but surely in my big black coat it was clear that I was here for the rugby? Then I saw French people giving me curious smiles. (I'm most definitely not a chic French woman).

I glanced down... and caught sight of my beautiful handcrafted New Zealand native tree frog that lives on my coat lapel. Uh oh! Ummm... Ooops!

I straightened my shoulders and eased out of the coat, folding it twice as carefully as usual... once so the holes in the lining didn't show, and twice to protect my precious frog.

Ok, with my frog and my French surname, one would think I would sit there happily with my bets covered. But no, I still had the weight of the nation on my conscience. Should I pretend that the squash was claustrophic and go for a walk around the block? Would that help alleviate the pain of the oil on our beaches?

But a message was imprinted in my mind. I had to be there, orders from Christchurch. Perhaps Uncle P would share the blame when the world discovered it was all my fault?

Ah well, too late now. Settled in the middle of a bar with 3 gigantic screens, two big screens and 3 little screens, I was well and truly sardined and there was no escape. Best send positive vibes and focus on the game.


It is only when I hear the music or see the haka or the poi that I feel truly a "Kiwi". I would like to be near family, of course, but my home is here. But while other kiwis around me were clearly getting more homesick by the minute, I was calm, totally at peace with where I live. I'm sure the only person who noticed a leak in one of my eyes during the anthem was the kiwi opposite me pretending that she wasn't crying. I don't get homesick, except for Roccasecca, and there I am proudly an ex-pat New Zealander at home in Italy.


Anyway, the atmosphere was wonderful. An Aussie at our table (actually, we muscled in on her table) called out just before the start "Leave the Pacific alone, you §§§§§". I don't think it was my lapel friend she was talking to. (She turned out to be really nice, so later I thanked her for her support).

As soon as the French anthem started you could have heard a pin drop. Well, you can imagine the scene from here on. The haka was awesome, the response in our part of the world more than appropriate, emotion and tension are inadequate words. We began the game on a high.

The first 15 minutes were grim. There were mutterings, but softly. I am sure you know the rest. But beside me were two charming young Frenchmen, later joined by another. Every time they got carried away with "Allez Allez Allez" two of them would sheepishly apologize in English. It was very sweet to see. I kept my frog hidden, but I was tempted to let it escape in quiet solidarity... (did I say that?)

When full time came (you remember it? The last ten minutes were made up of 8 minutes that flew, 1 minute 20 seconds at normal speed, and the last 40 seconds that took nearly twenty minutes to pass), anyway when full time came I shook hands with these gorgeous young men, and gave a lovely NZ cap to the one who was ready to spring to my rescue when some rude person nearly knocked this frail little old lady over on his way to the bar. He looked most surprised. I hope he likes it, but I don't for a minute expect him to wear it.

My French friends then quietly disappeared, and it seemed that only Kiwis and Aussies remained.

Well, I don't know how it happened, but something went right. But, so very very nearly, I could have lost it for you. I wonder if it was those hats in my bag to hand to the victors or my little friend who hitch-hiked in on my coat that really won the day?

Today I am grateful for new friends.


Teacake said...

There's something special about watching the rugby with ex-pats in a foreign bar :-)

All of her own accord our dear little kiwi went to sleep just before the haka, woke bang on half-time for a top-up feed, then went to sleep again so her parents could watch the game. There's patriotism for you!

Kay said...

What a little champion!